8yr old plagued by negative thoughts


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Hi there. I want to help my son but not sure of the best approach.

Possibly relevant context: he is dyslexic and dyspraxic and may also have ASD traits/has some sensory processing stuff.

He very often is scared at bedtime and struggles to go to sleep. The way he describes it is that bad thoughts just pop into his head all the time and he can't get them to go away. He's also said that maybe he's just a guy who has bad thoughts in his head all the time, like he's resigning himself to that being his life.

The thoughts themselves are generally things he's seen on TV which have scared him. To be clear he is not watching inappropriate things, only e.g. YouTube Kids on his age setting. For example he saw this cartoony documentary for kids explaining what vampires are and how they're not real, but them he just got this image of a vampire stuck in his head to the point of being almost like a mini panic attack. He can think about things like this from years ago.

I usually calm him by getting him to think through nice things such as details of holidays we've been on, however I want him to develop his own strategies.

To me it feels a bit like an OCD type thing in that he is endlessly replaying images in his head, but I'm wary of jumping to conclusions.

More than happy to get him some therapy but I also want to know how to approach it myself as his parent.

@ranashamraiz I was similar to this as a child, I was always super afraid of certain shows, very afraid of ghosts, worried about small things like if my mom lost something special of hers it would really really bother me. I was also in elementary in 2009, which was when the 2012 end of the world propaganda and movie was circulating. That was what triggered my OCD. I worried every single day for a year straight about it and I was so certain and sad I wouldn’t make it to the age I am now. I was very psychologically distressed and it certainly traumatized me. I have recently been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that my psychologist said I’ve been dealing with since then, and I believe I may have an underlying neurodivergency that caused all of this, but I’m in the diagnostic process still. I assigned myself as chronically inferior which still follows me to this day. I’ve been diagnosed with BPD because of all of this
@ranashamraiz If you can try zero screen time and top up hugely on outside nature time. Works for my niece who has asd which gives her negative thoughts (more ‘people are being mean/horrible to me etc). They had to do a big lifestyle change but it seems to be working. Tv affects us all differently so it may not help but worth a go.
@ranashamraiz I’m really interested to see how you go on this. I just came to this sub ready to ask a very similar question for my 9 1/2 year old son. He also struggles with sleep, more the getting to sleep than the staying asleep, although he struggles to stay asleep at times too. At bed time he gets those intrusive negative thoughts. He is extremely negative in his thoughts towards himself, and finds it almost impossible to self regulate once he’s lost the plot and is having a tantrum. We’ve had him tested for ADHD twice and both times we were told he doesn’t fit the criteria, mainly because his academic learning is way above the norm. He is highly intelligent and excels at school. He has anxiety and can’t seem to slow his mind down. It really does feel like WANTS / NEEDS screen time because it gives his brain time to switch off, so we limit it to certain days of the week and only for limited blocks of time. I too have considered the possibility that he has OCD, but like you, am wary of jumping to conclusions. Parenting this little dude is damn tough!
@inazuma I did quite a bit of research and found something which explained parent intervention should focus on:

1) Communicating that intrusive thoughts are very common and very normal
2) Helping them to identify what is happening as intrusive thoughts and name them as such
3) Help them to accept the thoughts and stop fighting them, which is what exacerbates the issue

I found a couple of videos which seemed to really resonate with him:

And then techniques to help accept and allow the thoughts to pass:


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